There are few names that a woman should never forget. The name of the person she lost her virginity to. Her mother’s maiden name (for the security of her bank account). Chanel. And of course, the name of her First Crush.
Now I don’t mean your first crush when you were five in the sandbox. Nor do I mean your first crush in middle school. I mean your first real high school crush. The one that you had when you were a Freshman and he was a Senior. Sure, up until that crush there may have been a hot and heavy make out session in the back of the movie theater following some experimentation with whip-its. But this crush is bigger than that. I’m talking about the first guy who made you realize that you wanted to have sex with someone. That made you think about having sex with him. Even if you’d never done IT. Even if IT scared you.
For me, it was Dave Waldenberg. Dave Waldenberg made me lose my mind. He was a Senior, I was a sassy little Freshman. And let me tell you one thing — homeboy was cuuuuuuute.
There are things I can recall about Dave Waldenberg that I can’t recall about subsequent men I’ve slept with. He took fourth period chemistry. He drove a blue 1994 Ford Explorer. He played water polo. I, to this very day, am well versed in the complex rules of water polo, solely because of that man.
Everyone knew about My Crush On Dave Waldenberg. He was my Jordan Catalano. He was my Jake Ryan. He would strut down the hallway and I would press my back against my locker in the hopes that he would just look at me. My cheeks would flush crimson, my heart would pound, it would get really hot under my armpits in an unattractive prickly way. When Dave Waldenberg walked down that hallway it was if Adonis himself was strutting along before me. Though I was not even close to as slick as Aphrodite must have been. I had dreams about his brown curly hair and his sultry brown eyes. Sometimes I even imagined him naked. And I, at fourteen, was much more accustomed to singing along to the “Rent” soundtrack than I was to thinking about naked men. (Even though the “Rent” soundtrack was like, totally about naked men.)
There are some who say that when you fall in love, you want to shout it from the rooftops. I, the precocious adolescent that I was, with a penchant for brightly colored polyester vintage tops and knee-high hooker boots, broadcast my crush from my locker like I was Robin Williams in “Good Morning Vietnam”! Everyone knew how I felt about Dave Waldenberg. My entire ninth grade class. Stoners and skaters and jocks. My dear, inspiring English Teacher Mrs. Hagger. I think even some of the lunch ladies were in on the joke. Even Dave Waldenberg knew, bless his patient, patient soul. How could he not? I got very “Single White Female” on his ass.
A couple of weeks ago some girlfriends and I were having margaritas, hoping to delay the inevitable demise of summer. As we sipped and laughed intermittently, the conversation turned to what else — but our First Crushes. It turns out my love for Dave Waldenberg was not singular. Each of us had a Dave Waldenberg. We drove by his house, we memorized his class schedule, we burned his image into our mind’s eye.
It got me to wondering why this First Crush resonates so truly madly deeply with us. Perhaps, I concluded, that crush stands for the idea of romance that every little girl believes exists. It is lust in its truest most Cinderella-Rapunzel-Snow White-like form. That first crush happens before you’ve even tasted the bitterness of heartbreak. Before you’ve been dumped in a text message. Before you have a one-night stand that leaves in the middle of night. It happens before lies and disappointments and all the rest. It happens before any of the real complications of adult relationships – both the good and the bad.
Dave Waldenberg made me blush. He made me giggle. He made me queasy. But he never made me his girlfriend. And I think it’s actually better that way. Because Dave Waldenberg, in my mind, will remain who I believed him to be — instead of whomever he actually was. There was something so innocent and so pure (amidst all my impure thoughts) about my First Crush on Dave Waldenberg.
Years later I was working my first post-college drone of a desk job, struggling as a writer, answering phones and filing away my brains cells, when someone in my office had a meeting. I looked up as my phone rang and there, walking past my desk for that very meeting was Dave Waldenberg himself. I blinked, thinking that my mind was playing tricks on me. I mean, it had been a while since I’d gotten laid, maybe delirium and sexual frustration had conspired to create hallucinations. But alas, it was indeed, Dave Waldenberg. He had gained weight, his hair was no longer as thick as it once way, and he wasn’t nearly as tall as I remembered. But just the same, I didn’t see any of that. Suddenly, it was as if I was fourteen again. I stared down at my manicured hands resting on the edge of my desk and breathed deeply, praying that he wouldn’t recognize me. He didn’t.
When he was gone, I looked up again. Despite the heartbreak and the one-night stands in my post Dave Waldenberg life I was relieved to be 22 and not 14 anymore.
And I was relieved cause I looked better than him.